Grace Efezokhae: We All Need to Fight for the Rights of the Nigerian Girl Child

dreamstime_l_29177250There are certain life experiences we go through that remain etched in our minds for a long time. One of such experiences for me was being an ad-hoc INEC official for the 2011 election registration as a youth corper serving in the North East (my mum must not hear this). I was assigned to a remote village where I came across underage girls with their babies strapped to their backs. I was shocked and angry at such misfortune. This was something I had only heard and read about, but the reality left me livid. It was so bad that I fell seriously ill for the next two days and could not continue with the registration process. There were even some as young as eight years who we were told had already been betrothed. My fellow corpers thought I overreacted to this incident but I couldn’t even bring myself to the fact that they were married to old men who were old enough to be their grandfathers.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), more than 140 million girls will marry between 2011 and 2020. As I recently watched the award winning movie, “Dry” directed by Stephanie Linus, the issue of child marriage and its consequences mostly untreated obstetric fistula brought back all these memories. It was so sad to see how ignorance made the people attribute this disease to adultery or witchcraft. The quack and unfunded health care system in Nigeria was another issue that was also highlighted in the movie. Isn’t this something a reasonable and “citizen-sensitive” government should be outraged about? Isn’t it heartbreaking enough that Nigerian doctors are poorly remunerated and even worse that they have to go on strike to attract the attention of the government? When these doctors go abroad for greener pastures, we begin to scream of brain drain. Do we blame them?

I am not bothered about whether there are laws concerning this child marriage issue, because we know how Nigeria is not law-abiding in every sense of the word. If the government cannot even fulfil the common human right to education for every child, what can a common citizen do? However, according to Joy Isi Bewaji, “Senators encourage one another to marry more wives. They bring out their penises and discuss the significance of their sizes as it relates to poor economic decisions and policy making”. After all, a Senator married a thirteen year old girl and after all the brouhaha, the young girl remained a wife.

There is no justification to why any man should have carnal knowledge of a twelve year old girl. What pleasure does a man derive from this kind of sex absent of mutual consent from the other party? To these charlatans, having sex with these underage girls has to do with a show of power and hiding under the cloak of religion or culture to justify these actions is appalling.

Being a girl child in this part of the world can be likened to a baby sheep exosed to wolves in the absence of worthy shepherds. The recent unfolding of Ese Oruru’s case increased awareness of an incident that has been going on for long. Even if they were lovers, why should a young man abduct a minor and abscond? Shouldn’t parental consent have been sought? It is issues like these that make Westerners rant their mouths and speak of this part of our world in derogatory terms.

Let these girls have an experience of their childhood to the fullest. There is more to life than getting married and having kids. When Halima, the child bride in the movie made that statement, “I want to be a child again”, I couldn’t hold back the tears. I can’t begin to imagine the millions of girls out there that keep making these statements to themselves. It’s a disappointment that in this 21st century where other parts of the world are thinking of making plans for the next century, we are having to deal with 10th century issues.

Which way Nigeria? It’s not enough to write and rant on Twitter about these incidents. What measures can be taken to renew the minds of these men who should be using their penises to provoke themselves to achieve ground breaking inventions?

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

10 Comments on Grace Efezokhae: We All Need to Fight for the Rights of the Nigerian Girl Child
  • A Loco Viva Voce March 16, 2016 at 9:31 am

    I couldn’t agree more Grace. We really need to educate and protect our children especially female children. I love where you said it’s not enough to rant on Twitter because that’s really all Nigerians do. It trends for a week or two then it’s stale gist. Like in the case of Sugabelly. So sad! More needs to be done. And fast!

    Read today’s post
    THE PEOPLE VS IBINABO FIBERESIMA VS LEKKI GARDENS
    alocovivavoce.com/2016/03/16/the-people-vs-ibinabo-fiberesima-vs-lekki-gardens/

  • Engoz March 16, 2016 at 11:08 am

    They will soon come and tell you you are privileged that is why you have the time to be concerned about a ‘non issue’. very wicked souls.

  • Dr. N March 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Practical steps
    A couple founded an ngo in a community known for female circumcision. They engaged d community, trained d “circumcizers” in other skills to make a living, even adopted a few girls to protect them.
    When they showed d community head a video of d act being carried out, he issued a law against it.
    Ranting on social media is good. As we identify others who are passionate as we are, we then band together and move into those communities. Notice that d children of d nothern elite do not marry.early

  • Wanderlust _Trekeffect March 16, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    You’ve spoken well, even if these laws are passed, Nigerians are not law abiding because their actions rarely have consequences, besides most of the people who engage in these acts are” above the law”.

    When we rant on sm it never gets to the ears of the average uneducated Nigerian, those are the proper who need to be sensitized to this movement and that can only be done by physical presence.
    Have a March, put up Bill boards! In rural areas put it up in the language of the people, schools should reinforce this notion, it’s be important that the young ones be made aware because that can at least assure us of a future where this won’t be a problem, and most of all there should be consequences!
    A lot of those people are like goats, they will only obey when whipped! This again falls back on the Nigerian legal system which will almost always fail and The fact that most northern court houses operate on religious rather than moral laws.

  • gia March 16, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    Only 5 comments on an article of such importance…

  • Tosin March 16, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    “There is no justification to why any man should have carnal knowledge of a twelve year old girl.”

  • Marian March 16, 2016 at 4:30 pm

    How many people in lagos have a girl under the age of 15 as a housemaid? If a bill was passed to abolish this practice ( not sure if there is a bill against this already) will everyone return their underage maids? will the police enforce this? Who dem born well in yankee to keep a 13 yr old as a maid and no make sure she’s at least going to school.

    I remember when i was in primary school in Naija, we had tv shows about these issues. that was the first time i became aware of underage marriage and female circumcision. Do they still have shows like that to educate people? i think it was sponsored by unicef. that’s something big companies like MTN can look into.

  • osaretin March 17, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Only God will help us as a country.

  • hector thankgod March 21, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Nigeria is faced with unresolved socio-economic issues leading to violence. They affect the community mostly in female right violation such as gender insensitivity at birth, forced marriages, unwillingness to educate the girl-child, rape, gender insensitivity in families and community, unequal treatment to female leaders among others.
    But one may ask who the perpetrators of this violence are. According to Pratto (1996), violence is a mechanism to control the less powerful and to maintain male dominance and female subordination.
    that is why we at Sustainable Development of Women and youth Initiative are advocating that the perpetrators which in most cases men should be dealt with.. yes its good to protect and empower the girl-child/woman. but if the issue of the man is not adequately addressed it will continue.

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